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New law aims to deny licence renewal for unpaid tickets

Published:Friday | September 26, 2014 | 9:00 AM

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

MOTORISTS WHO commit traffic offences and fail to make payments to Tax Administration Jamaica will no longer be able to renew their driver's licences or renew a motor vehicle licence under the proposed new Road Traffic Act.

Discussing provisions in the new Road Traffic Act during a meeting of a joint select committee of Parliament on Wednesday, Dr Janine Dawkins, chief technical director in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, said provisions have been introduced in the statute to crack down on motorists who refuse to pay traffic fines.

Dawkins said under the proposed new law, if there are outstanding traffic tickets for the holder of a driver's licence or the owner of a vehicle, those permits would not be renewed.

In addition, motorists who have racked up hundreds of traffic tickets and accumulated significant numbers of demerit points will, under the new regime, have their licences suspended for six months, a year, or even up to two years.

Under the current law, scores of motorists who have accumulated 10 or more but less than 14 demerit points, or 14 or more but less than 20 demerit points have escaped the suspension of their licences for six months or a year, respectively, owing to a flaw in the legislation which did not specify that the Island Traffic Authority (ITA) is the designated body to impose the suspension.

However, Section 33 of the new Road Traffic Act states clearly that the body responsible for suspending driver's licences after specific numbers of demerit points have been accumulated is the ITA.

Under the new Road Traffic Act, there are also new provisions aimed at easing the burden on the court system and extending the time within which motorists can pay for tickets at the revenue centres. However, Dawkins pointed out that a monetary penalty will be applied for late payments, but this would not attract a mandatory court appearance.

ROAD CODE REVIEW

The joint select committee examining the Road Traffic Act was also advised that substantial work has been done on revising the current road code as well as a draft learner driver's manual and instructor's manual. Completion of the draft documents awaits the proposed changes to the Road Traffic Act.

At present, most Jamaicans learning to drive use the Jamaican Driver's Guide: Road Code Edition, which is not an official publication of the ITA. The committee was told that the last road code prepared by the ITA is outdated.

Other major provisions in the proposed new Road Traffic Act include restrictions on new drivers, regulation of driving instructors and schools, and adjustments to the testing procedure requiring that the road-code test must be passed before a learner's permit is granted.

Additionally, the bill addresses the use of electronic visual devices and electronic communication devices while driving.

"This is an issue of grave concern," Dawkins noted.

Committee chairman Dr Omar Davies expressed the desire to complete deliberations of the 139-page bill by year end or before the close of the current parliamentary year.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com